First Impressions Count: How to Succeed during a College Interview

Ask a Nerd!

Question: I was lucky enough to get an interview with somebody at the college of my choice but I don’t know how to conduct myself in an interview, what should I do?

Brief: A college interview provides the chance to make a great first impression or a really bad one. It’s important that people who are accepted for an interview conduct themselves in a mature and professional manner.



Interviewing for college is very similar to interviewing for a job except that students interviewing on a college campus often don’t have the practice that their older counterparts do when it comes to interview etiquette – our Orange County college admissions consultants are here to help.

The majority of students are not asked to an interview, especially at larger universities, however, students who do have the opportunity to interview are generally in one of two positions: either they are at the top of the list and the school wants to learn more about them, or their application has been put in the “maybe” pile and the interview is their last chance to be put into the “yes” pile. It’s essential for applicants to take the interview very seriously and follow basic etiquette in order to be successful (READ: “8 Reasons Applicants Fail to Get Into the College of Their Choice”).

1. Manners

Just as with any type of interview, students should use the best etiquette possible. They should be appropriately dressed with khakis and a collared shirt (at a minimum) for young men, and professional slacks or skirts (at a minimum) for young ladies. Students should wear comfortable shoes because part of the interview may include a walk around campus. Applicants should make sure that they’re sitting up straight and addressing the interviewer as Mr. or Ms., unless they’re told otherwise

2. Preparation

Even the most seasoned job applicants will get nervous at an interview so it’s no wonder that somebody interviewing for college would feel extremely nervous and unprepared. That’s why it’s important to practice ahead of time. Students are encouraged to participate in mock interviews where they ask questions to parents or peers and get feedback on the validity and appropriateness of the questions.

3. All the right questions

Students are advised to use these precious 30 minutes or so to ask any and all questions they have about the university in general, the programs they are interested in, the faculty, accommodation, campus life etc… This is the one and only chance a student will have to receive in-depth information prior to making a final decision if they would like to attend the school or not. It’s advised that all applicants use this time wisely.

4. Thank them for their time

Very few people remember to thank a professional for their time these days. Although it’s an education professional’s “job” to spend their time with students, it’s important that the applicant being interviewed understands that everybody’s time is valuable. Students who are selected for an interview should always thank the person for their time, both upon entering the interview and upon leaving. People who feel that their time is valued are often willing to go the extra mile while, on the other, people who feel that their time is expected may choose not to do this. A “thank you” costs nothing but pays back many times over (READ: “Tips From an Orange County Academic Tutor: Tracking Progress”).

In Short

Any student lucky enough to receive an interview at a college or university should remember that it’s their one shot to get extra information as well as an insider’s look into the university. They should also remember to prepare ahead of time and follow traditional interview etiquette. The college interview is a great way to go from the “maybe” pile into the list of accepted applicants and also make those final choices about where to attend school.

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